Controversy Creates Ca$h

by Eric Bischoff with Jeremy Roberts

Description: In Eric Bishoff's 'tell-all' book, he reveals what his experience was behind the scenes in World Championship Wrestling, and he describes ultimately what made it great in the late 90's and of course, what made it fail. He goes into the politics and struggles he had backstage with many wrestlers, and describes a constant war of office politics with his superiors in AOL Time Warner. Nevertheless, Eric Bischoff describes his solve-all, fix-all techniques for making these persistent holes in his company into a solid, firm establishment´┐Żcontroversy, excitement, action, and realism.

Contrary to what many modern WWE fans would believe, Eric Bishoff was an innovator and an important figure in sports entertainment history. Just as Vince McMahon benefited from switching wrestling from small house shows to a national phenomenon through the use of television, Eric Bishoff describes his change in wrestling that made him the winner in the Monday Night Wars; creating a show that would grip an older crowd, making it more mainstream. He used celebrities like Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno, took in high-profile wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, and created a conglomerate of sorts by combining Disney, monster trucks, hot Nitro girls, KISS, and of course, the nWo. Most of all, he mixed things up, performing in other countries and using ratings draws from pop-culture. The New World Order faction was an example where he suspended the fans' beliefs and push more interesting storylines into his shows. The Cruiserweight division was an example that lingers in wrestling today, putting wrestlers of different weight classes into the spotlight.
The Monday Night Wars was my main interest in reading this book, and I was not disappointed. I understand more and more about how Bishoff operated. He behaved just as McMahon when he took in wrestlers from the independent circuits. In fact, any accusations that he purposely stole talents from other shows would be false. He was able to provide million-dollar contracts to large draws from WWE and made them happy with a better traveling schedule. Less shows, more focus on building sound PPVs, and good storylines made him the better show. Of course, it made the wrestling industry better. Bishoff explained how his competition with McMahon made wrestlers more household names and described the ratings growth he created for both brands.

Another unique perspective Bishoff has is that of an onscreen personality and a corporate executive. Instead of being his own boss, Bishoff tells the pain he had when his show was 'killed' in the late '90s when network executives in Time Warner gave him the boot. He was being told what to do and how to run his show by people who didn't know wrestling. Because of this, while Degeneration-X was emerging and WWE was beginning to crush their competition, WCW was beginning to shut down internally with nothing but in-fighting and political problems. Bishoff was forced to make his show puny and childish compared to the rising challenge of WWE's Attitude Era. He was forced to fight a ratings battle he could not win with, as he tells it, "one arm tied behind his back."

Eric Bishoff also goes at length about his inability to change the falling WCW brand. The company was not his, and, although it did churn a nice profit in its good years, it was a sinking ship for years. He had a generous budget to work with, and I firmly believe that he could have done more. As he got older and progressed after years of work, he lost interest and power in what he was doing. Most of all, he was being heavily censored and controlled by his corporate superiors, while facing backstage political turmoil. Many times, he had to work hard to make the show work, and tossing away lots of time and energy into his wrestlers so he could make them happy. For example, Goldberg and Hulk Hogan would stomp over Bishoff, refusing to lose and demanding control over the shows. Backstage, he wasn't pleased with many people he had working, including the cameramen and creative teams. All in all, he had so much dead weight working for him and so many people without any competence in pro-wrestling in his company that it was no surprise that his show soon went limp in the wake of WWE's new success.

And, as the egotist that he is, Eric Bishoff tells the readers that WWE only arose from its losing streak because it managed to improve its product by making it more like his. This is clearly not the case. It is true that the link between DX and the nWo was there; the guys were doing the same invasion storylines, angry about their status, even using Sean Waltman to push the DX storyline, but I still think WWE had a far better brand and McMahon worked harder to please the fans.

After reading this book, I gained some more appreciation for Bishoff's brand. I never was a fan of WCW because as a younger fan, I can only remember it for what it was on its dying legs; just a kid's show. Now, thinking back, I might reconsider my views of WCW and look into its older PPVs. And I'll never watch wrestling again without thinking how much better it had become as a result of the Monday Night Wars. I would highly recommend this book to wrestling fans of WCW and to anyone curious about the backstage politics of wrestling.

Reviewed by Timothy Popko on January 23, 2007.

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